Monday, May 21, 2018

Redesigned Ruth Bancroft Garden nursery needs tweaking

I've probably bought more plants at the Ruth Bancroft Garden Nursery than anywhere else. In the old days, I couldn't wait for the spring and fall plant sales when tables full of exciting succulents and other plants were set up all over the garden.

In February 2015, the nursery expanded significantly, ushering in what I consider the golden age. Under the leadership of nursery manager Troy McGregor, the nursery began to offer a large variety of South African and Australian shrubs (including many proteaceas), more succulents than ever, and even water-wise trees. A consummate plantsman originally from Australia, Troy brought in plants that simply weren't available anywhere else in Northern California, always focusing on climate appropriateness and low-water use.

But nothing lasts forever. Troy left to open his own landscape design company, Gondwana Flora. The RBG broke ground to build a multi-million dollar Visitor and Education Center, and a new executive director, Carol Laughlin, took office.

While the site preparations for the new Visitor Center were under way, the nursery did business on the north side of the garden in the green metal-frame building called Ruth's Folly. Now, with the Visitor Center foundation complete, the nursery has moved back to its old spot on the south side of the garden near the main entrance. The official opening of the nursery was last Saturday, May 19. I attended the preview party on Friday, May 18 to get a sneak peek at the new space.


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Photographic proof: the garden does just fine on its own

The past month has been very busy. I spent 4½ days in Austin, TX for the 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling, but that hasn't been the only thing that has kept me from doing much in the garden. Work has been consuming a big chunk of my time, leaving only parts of the weekends for puttering around outside. As a result, I haven't been able to get nearly as much done as I had hoped earlier in the year. Unfortunately, that seems to have become the new normal for me—I'm sure many of you can relate.

One thing I have been doing even at the busiest times: taking photos to chronicle the goings-on in the garden. Flowers come and go—sometimes all too quickly—so a postpone-until-tomorrow approach usually means you miss out.

This post contains 70+ photos taken over the past month. Some of the flowers are nothing but a memory now, but at least I've captured them at their peak.

What these photos prove is this: No matter how much we like to think we're indispensable, our gardens do just fine without us.

Danebrog poppy (Papaver hybridum 'Danebrog') from Annie's Annuals

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Austin, TX gardens from M to Z

In part 1 of this alphabetical round-up of garden highlights from the 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling I went from Agaves to Lush. This installment covers the rest: Mexico to Zilker Botanical Gardens.


Mexico

Texas was part of Mexico until the Texas Revolution of 1836. The relationship between Texas and Mexico has always been turbulent, and in a February 2018 CBS 11/Dixie Strategies poll 57% of Texans supported Trump's border wall. But in spite of the current political animosity towards Mexico, Texas's neighbor to the south continues to be a major cultural influence: 31% of the total population of Texas is of Mexican descent and 30% of households speak Spanish at home (source). Mexican food—and Tex-Mex, a fusion between Mexican and American cuisine—are insanely popular, and even hard-core conservatives would change their tune if Trump slapped a tariff on the import of tequila.

Food writer Lucinda Hutson's garden, our first stop on Sunday, distills the essence of Mexico into a small urban space in central Austin. Walking through the backyard gate into her Jardín Encantador is like stepping into a courtyard garden in the heart of Mexico. It's Lucinda's love song to Mexico, and I can still hear it loud and clear.



Sunday, May 13, 2018

Austin, TX gardens from A to L

As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent five days in Austin, Texas recently to join 90+ kindred spirits for the 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling. We toured a dozen private gardens and several public gardens and visited a couple of nurseries. And on the day after the Fling, I had the opportunity to see even more gardens.

Instead of a traditional chronological overview of what we say, I'm giving you a potpourri of Austin vignettes from A to Z. This installment covers A to L, this one M to Z.


Agaves

Austin and agaves go together like hands and gloves. With maybe one exception, we saw agaves in all the gardens we visited. The whale's tongue agave, Agave ovatifolia, seems to be particularly popular—no surprise there.

Agave ovatifolia at Mirador Garden

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

My Texas plant haul

I'm sorry for not posting anything last week, but I was in Austin, TX for the 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling. This was the 10-year anniversary of this annual gathering of garden enthusiasts from the US, Canada and beyond. The first Fling was held in Austin in 2008, so returning to the capital of Texas after Chicago, Buffalo, Seattle, Asheville, San Francisco, Portland, Toronto, Minneapolis, and the DC Area made perfect sense.

I took close to 2,000 photos of the 15 gardens we toured, and I hope to start posting about them next week. In the meantime, let me know show you my plant haul. It came home with me in my suitcase:


Index: 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling, Austin, TX


Cowboy boot planter at
Lucinda Hutson's
colorful Mexican-inspired garden
From May 3 to 6, I attended the 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling. This annual gathering of garden bloggers from North America and the UK (and occasionally from other countries) celebrated its 10th anniversary this year in the place where it all began: Austin, TX.

This index contains all my posts relating to #gbfling2018. I'll update the list as I add new posts about the gardens we visited.


PUBLISHED:

COMING SOON:
  • TBD

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

RIP, rotting 'Frosty Blue'—welcome, 'Desert Love'

In early March I wrote about a mysterious case of rot that had affected three of my agaves: Agave ovatifolia 'Frosty Blue', Agave 'Snow Glow', and Agave parrasana.

Agave parrasana is healing. The rot has stopped, and there's every reason to believe this specimen will pull through.

Agave 'Snow Glow' succumbed within a week of my original post and is nothing but a memory now.

Agave ovatifolia 'Frosty Blue' was one of my favorites and I was determined to put up a fight. I sprayed it multiple times with a fungicide (Daconil), keeping my fingers crossed that would do the trick. However, 'Frosty Blue' simply couldn't be saved; the rot had progressed too far. To this day, I don't know what had caused this outbreak.

This is what the area looked like on April 20, 2018:


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Mark Delepine's Berkeley fusion garden

In April 2017,  as part of the Garden Conservancy's Open Days program, I visited a garden in Berkeley with a very intriguing name: Pseudonatural Freakshow. I took many photos and blogged about it here. The description of the garden is long but it provides valuable background information. Please scroll down beyond the jump break to read it.

Little did I know that I would become friends with the mastermind behind this garden oasis, Mark Delepine. Mark is very active in the California Horticultural Society, and I've met him on several occasions since my first visit.

Last Sunday Mark and his wife, renowned textile artist Lia Cook, had an open garden/open studio. I jumped on the opportunity to see their garden again.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Annual pilgrimage to Poot's Cactus Nursery (part 2)

In part 1 of this post about my visit to Poot's Cactus Nursery in Ripon, CA I showed you the plantings in the front of the nursery as well as the retail sales area. In part 2 we're going inside the greenhouse that is home to the Poots' personal collection of succulents. Some of the plants are also used as stock plants for propagation.

When you think of "personal collection" you may think of a few hundred plants. Not so here. While I have no idea how many individual plants there are—I'm not even sure the Poots know—there are many thousands, maybe more than 10,000. The greenhouse is absolutely packed with plants. At least half of them are cactus, the rest euphorbias, caudiciforms, and succulents like agaves, aloes and haworthias. There are some fairly common plants, too, but many are true collector's items.

Let's go poke around!

The cactus with reddish "hats" are Melocactus, often called Turk's hat cactus

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Annual pilgrimage to Poot's Cactus Nursery (part 1)

What does it take start a tradition? If visiting the same place at the same time two years in a row counts, then I have a new tradition: an annual pilgrimage to Poot's Cactus Nursery in Ripon. Many of you may have no clue where Ripon is (here's a map) but if you've ever taken Highway 120 East to Yosemite National Park, then you've driven right by Poot's. It's located in the middle of the fields between Manteca and Escalon. Just look for the signs:


The nursery was started by Bill and Roelyn Poot 30+ years ago. It's still a family business, with son Brian managing the daily operations and Bill and Roelyn playing a hands-on role in propagation and sales. We were fortunate get a private tour of the private greenhouse which is off-limits to the public. It houses the Poots' huge collection of succulents, many of which are used for propagation. I'll have photos of the greenhouse in part 2 of this post. 

Greenhouse in the back, demonstration garden in the front. The koi pond is in front of the all the cactus.